It has been ten years since the Young Lions qualified for the FIFA U-20 World Cup finals. On their last appearance at Nigeria 1999 the Cameroonians reached the Round of 16 before being edged out by Mali in extra time, a disappointment that their latest generation of young talents will be hoping to make up for.
After brushing aside Burundi and Congo to check into the CAF African Youth Championships with ease, Cameroon were made to work hard in the first phase of the finals, held in Rwanda. Having kicked off with a 3-0 defeat of Mali, the Young Lions were then held to a brace of 1-1 draws by the hosts and Ghana, squeezing into the semi-finals by a single point.
Waiting for them were Nigeria, who were powerless to prevent the Cameroonians from surging into the final with a 2-0 win. Alas for Alain Wabo's charges, Ghana prevailed by the same scoreline in the showpiece match to claim the continental crown.
Wabo is one of those coaches who divides opinion. A self-taught trainer, the Cameroonian Capello, as he has become known, has been imparting his wisdom from the touchline since he was 21. Sixteen years on from his coaching debut he finds himself in charge of a youth team with a very bright future.
The creator of the highly original attaque-fourmis (ant-attack) and responsible for many other innovations, Wabo takes an unorthodox approach to his job and his press conferences invariably combine intricate technical and tactical explanations with a good deal of laughter.
Unconventional he may be, but Wabo has proved himself a formidable tactician, leading three different Cameroonian clubs to promotion to the country's top flight, winning the Cup and the Super Cup, and then taking off for Equatorial Guinea, where he won three successive league titles with Renacimiento.
The young Cameroonians owe their recent success to their solidity and defensive strengths. Exerting a big influence on the team is captain Francois Beyokol, who plays his club football for domestic giants Canon Yaounde and has finally made the goalkeeping position his own. A key member of the defence is Charley Roussel Fomen, a modern-style left-back blessed with excellent positional sense and capable of instigating rapid counter-attacks, qualities that convinced Olympique Marseille to draft him in as a potential successor to Taye Taiwo.
Genoa midfielder Parfait Louis Essengue Eloumou started on the bench in Rwanda but quickly became an essential feature of coach Wabo's plans, linking play and patrolling the centre of the pitch alongside Juvette Tabot Enow. And although used more sparingly in an offensive role, Paris St Germain's Victor Cedric Nkoum has shown tremendous promise as an attacking midfielder-cum-striker.
- Cameroon will be taking part in their fifth FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt. Their previous appearances came in 1981, 1993, 1995 and 1999.
- Their best performance was at Qatar 1995 when they were knocked out in the quarter-finals by Argentina.
- The Cameroonians won the 1995 African Youth Championships in Nigeria.
What they said
"I've had a pretty good record since I took over as coach. The defeat to Ghana in the final of the African Youth Championships in Rwanda was the only one we've had in all that time. I learned a lot at that tournament and I can assure you the best is yet to come," Cameroon U-20 coach Alain Wabo.
|21||Andre AKONO EFFA|